As NFL defensive players try to move away from hits that target above the shoulders, per new league rules, they may have been forced to target a more sensitive part of an offensive player’s body, the knees and on Saturday night in the Houston Texans 24-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins a big fear was realized when Texans rookie safety DJ Swearinger went low to tackle Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller and ended up tearing up his ACL, MCL, PCL and dislocating the knee cap thus ending the season for him.
“I was making a hit playing football. In this league, you’ve got to go low. If you go high, you’re going to get a fine,” Swearinger told Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post. “I’m sorry that happened. I would think you’d rather have more concussions than leg injuries. Leg injury, you can’t come back from that. A concussion, you be back in a couple of weeks.”
And the young rookie is correct in both statements made about the hit. First, this is what the league has forced its players to now do; if you go high its a 15 yard penalty and a potential fine, and as a defender you still may be afraid to aim for the midsection because what happens if the receiver crouches down, you the risk hitting him in the helmet even though you were technically sound in your tackle form.
Secondly, while there is a possibility that the victim of the helmet-to-helmet contact could sustain head trauma or a concussion, the chances of that player’s exposed knee surviving a direct hit with little or no damage is far less, and road to recovery from a ACL/MCL injury is more arduous.
So Commissioner Goddell has to consider what is more detrimental to the league; having players exposed to the possibility of sustaining head trauma through helmet contact or losing receivers and running backs to knee injuries because they were tackled low by a defender trying to follow the rules?